Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Losing Abby

We lost our beloved dog, Abby, on Saturday.
That was hard.
She would have been 14 years old if she'd lived until September. One of our other dogs, Jughead, died in March of cancer.
He had a tumor.
Abby ended up having two tumors. She seemed so spry after Jughead's death that I thought she might last awhile. Then she started having trouble going up steps. I noticed that her belly started looking a little big.
Chuck took her to the vet on Saturday. He told me that they'd probably just give us some medicine for her hips. He suggested that I go to the church meeting, so I went.
When I returned, Chuck said that an X-ray had exposed the tumors and that the prognosis wasn't good. So he had the vet give Abby the shot that would end her pain.
I don't know how dogs do this, but Chuck said she died with a smile on her face.
It's tough to lose two dogs within a four-month time period.
We still have our little dog, Buzz, but it seems strange to only have one pooch in the house.
I rely on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and on our heavenly father for strength and comfort.
I love you, Lord, and I thank you for the gift that Abby has been to our lives.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rebounding from disappointment

Here's a Spiritual Spinach column that I wrote for Friday's Fremont Tribune. I know it's a little long for a blog, but I hope you like it.
To read more Spiritual Spinach columns, just visit www.fremonttribune.com and type the words, "Spiritual Spinach," into the little, white, rectangular search box at the top of the home page, then click on the magnifying glass icon and that should take you to a listing of them.

Ever hear of Johnson Oatman Jr.?
Nope, neither had I - until I looked up an old-time gospel song.
The song is called "Count Your Blessings."
Maybe you know the chorus, which goes like this:
"Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done."
The lyrics are pretty nice, too. Some talk about doubts flying off when we count our blessings. Others talk about angels attending us and rewards in heaven.
I read that Oatman published this song in 1897.
Wow. I didn't know the song was that old, but I noticed that the chorus kept filtering through my brain when I was struggling with some discouragement recently.
Actually, the discouragement puzzled me. I have much for which to be thankful, but I think we all can get bummed out sometimes.
It could be because life didn't quite turn out like we expected.
We thought we'd be married and have a child or a house by now.
Or we figured that after years of hard work, we surely would have gotten that promotion.
Or we would be more financially stable and would have accomplished more by this time in our lives.
Maybe this is when we need a little encouragement from the Scriptures.
Remember this verse: "Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart"? (Psalm 37:4)
Or how about this one: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not"? (Galatians 6:9)
Another translation of the Bible says we'll reap a harvest if we don't give up.
The Bible has many stories of people who faced big obstacles and became discouraged, then took the God-given courage they had and accomplished amazing things.
One of my favorite "rebound" Bible stories is found in 1 Samuel, chapter 30. This Old Testament account involves a man named David.
Many of us know that a shepherd boy, named David, killed a giant called Goliath.
But the acclaim that David later received after that victory aroused the jealousy of King Saul, who sent David fleeing for his life.
Other men - those in distress or in debt or the discontented - joined David, who became their leader.
What a group.
Now, many things will happen, but at one point David and his men go off to do battle, leaving their wives and children behind in a place called Ziklag.
The Amalekites then attack and burn Ziklag and capture the women and children. David and his men come back, find Ziklag destroyed, and cry until they don't have any strength left.
And as if things aren't bad enough, David's men start talking about stoning him to death.
Here's the part of the story that I love.
In verse six it says: "But David found strength in the Lord his God."
Then David does something that I think is really smart.
He asks God what to do.
"Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?" David asks.
And God answers. He lets David know that he'll succeed in the rescue.
So David and his men head out. They find a slave abandoned by one of the Amalekites. The slave takes them to the bad guys' camp. David fights them from dusk until evening the next day and recovers everything the Amalekites have taken.
Verse 19 of chapter 30 says: "Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back."
I think we can learn a couple of things from this story.
First, when he was disheartened, David found his strength in God.
How did he do that? He probably prayed. He might have stopped to remember all the times that God had helped him before. Maybe he did a little singing.
Next, David sought God's counsel.
It's important to ask God what to do when we're facing those difficult times and tough decisions. I also believe we need to seek him for direction when considering whether to take a new path in life.
"Lord, should I stay at this job or seek another?"
"Should I look into buying a house or wait?"
"Should I go back to college? Lord, please show me what you want me to do."
With God's guidance and support, David won his battle. And so can we, when we lean on the one who loves us and sees the future that we can only imagine.
We need to trust God and remember verses like: "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord of hosts, plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
And I think sometimes we need to take Oatman's advice and count our blessings. Years ago, when I was very disheartened, I made a list of 50 things for which I had to be thankful. I wrote down even the little things and posted that list on my refrigerator, making sure to look at it each day.
I don't know what happened to that list, but I think it might be time to make a new one.
I think Oatman would be pleased.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In a hot place

It's been so hot here in Fremont!
I drove past a bank today and the sign read "101 degrees." All I wanted to do after church was come home and stay in my air conditioned house.
The whole thing, however, reminds me of three guys who really were in a hot spot. They were among Israelites taken into captivity. Their names were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
We know them better by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. As the story goes, the king has built a 90-foot-tall gold statue, which he orders everyone bow down and worship.
Those who don’t will be thrown into a fiery furnace.
Guess who won’t bow down? Yep, those three stubborn Israelites. And when brought before an enraged king, they even say “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.”
Then our non-compromising friends say something that I consider the epitome of God-fueled faith.
Immediately after making their first statement, they follow up with: “But even if he does not (rescue us), we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Did you catch that phrase “even if he does not….”
How many of us can say, “Even if God never heals me on this earth, I will remain faithful”?
“Even if God never brings along that mate I’ve prayed for so long….”
“Even if God never lets me have a child….”
“Even if…..”
The king doesn’t take this response very well.
He orders the furnace heated seven times hotter than normal.
Next, the king has some of his strongest soldiers tie up the three men and throw them into the furnace. The furnace is so hot that it kills the soldiers. So you’d think our three friends would be gone, right?
Suddenly, the king leaps to his feet.
“Weren’t there three men we tied up and threw into the fire?” he asks.
Everyone agrees that the king’s math is correct.
“Look,” he says, “I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods!”
The king orders our three fellows to come out of the fire, which they do. They’re not hurt, their clothes aren’t scorched — and they don’t even smell like smoke.
We don’t like those furnace times — the times we hear about layoffs at work; or that our loved one was in a bad accident; or that the doctor wants us to come back because something on our test doesn’t look quite right.
Suddenly, we can start to feel our faith evaporating faster than the sweat on our brow. But it’s at these times that we have to remember who’s with us in the furnace. Bible scholars tell us that the fourth man in the furnace could have been an angel or the preincarnate manifestation of Christ.
Either way, those boys weren’t alone.
And neither are we.
God is faithful and he has protected me throughout my life — like the time my car hit a slick spot on a bridge and the back end hit a sign; or the time I nearly drove off a bridge that was under construction (that's a whole other story); or one time I was riding with a friend who hit a rainy slick spot while driving and took out a section of grass in a hilly park area.
Yes, God's had to keep an eye on me.
But then, he does that with everyone.
I'm so grateful to the Lord, who as the Scriptures say never sleeps or slumbers, and who can get us out of some really hot situations in life.
And while I wish he'd cool down these hot summer temperatures a bit, I know that I all have to do - if I want some real refreshment - is to open my Bible!



Friday, July 16, 2010

When in crisis

I'm getting ready to speak at a women's event this weekend.
Basically, I'm talking about trusting God through the tough times and giving Biblical examples.
I also want to give people a few tips.

When you're facing a crisis:

1. Pray. Ask God to help you. Ask him to give you peace, strength, courage and hope. Then wait on him.

2. Read your Bible. Ask God to speak to you through the Scriptures. Ask him to direct you where to go. Spend as much time as you can reading.

3. Underline comforting Psalms in your Bible. Look at those when you're in a hurry. Ask God to help you remember them. Repeat them to yourself.

4. Write down favorite Bible verses and post them where you can see them. Write Scriptures on index cards. Say them once aloud every day - so you can hear them with your heart and your ears. After about a week or so, you should be able to remember them.

5. Memorize Scripture. We memorize phone numbers, passwords and other things, so why not Scriptures? Make up a song for them and sing them. These are like bullets in a gun. When sad, scary or tough thoughts come at you, fire off a Scripture - repeat it over and over if necessary.

6. Never compare your insides with somebody else's outsides. Remember - we all have problems. We all go through different seasons in our lives. You may be going through a tough time now, but later you may be going through a good time while someone else is going through a rough time.

7. Seek Godly counsel. After you've gone to the Lord first, you may want to seek some Godly counsel for support or suggestions. Pray and ask God to direct you to the person you should talk to.

8. Trust God. Remember that he is faithful. He loves you. Ask him to guide you and calm you.

9. Write a list of things that God has blessed you with. Try to list 50 or as many as you can. Post that on your refrigerator and review it.

10. Have fellowship with other believers. Read stories of how God has helped other people. Remember that God doesn't love them any more than you. He has a good plan for you.

Please pray that I totally rely on the Holy Spirit when speaking and that God will use this time to bless those who come to my breakout sessions.



Monday, July 12, 2010

Waiting for the harvest

It's funny how God can lead you, if you let him.
About a year ago, I was covering county fairs after not having done so for years. After years of editing, my newspaper has me doing more writing, which I really do enjoy.
Anyway, I went to this fair and simply prayed and asked God to show me who to talk to - and to sort of bring them to me.
He was so faithful. I got good stories from all those with whom I came in contact. At one fair, I talked to a girl who told about trying to give her cat a bath before the event. At another, I visited with a boy who'd lost his dog for quite awhile. The dog wandered off, but came back. The boy nursed his dog back to health and was showing him at the fair.
I just love a good dog story.
Anyway, I decided to pray that God would direct my steps when Chuck and I went to the International Christian Retail Association Show in St. Louis.
I met lots of people, but the results of those meetings haven't been as immediate as what I found when interviewing people for newspaper stories.
So, I wait.
And like a farmer plants seeds, I pray and trust that God will make them grow.
We planted a lot of seed and some appears to have been scattered far away.
Three books went to South Korea. One went to Bermuda. One went to Haiti. At least two went to Nigeria. One went to Finland.
People ask if I've heard anything yet.
Well ... sort of.
I did have one woman, who has an on-line bookstore, say that she'd put my cards in with book orders that she mails out.
That sounds like a start.
Now, I'm still waiting for the little green shoots to start appearing out of the ground. I keep remembering what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, some of whom were saying they followed him and others Apollos. Paul reminded them that he and Apollos were only servants and that the Lord had assigned each to his task.
"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
Now I'm praying that God will make this project grow. I've prayed quite a bit that this book will go and help millions of people around the world.
I suppose that will take some time, but I'm wanting to see it happen right away.
I guess that's where I have to stop and remember that some things - like plants and faith - can take a little while to grow.
So I must wait and pray and trust.
God is faithful.
And I have to remind myself that the main point of this isn't just to sell a lot of books, it's to win the lost.
The hurting.
The fearful.
Dear Lord - Please help these seeds I've planted to take root and grow for the glory of your kingdom. And please help me to have the right heart attitude. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Re-thinking St. Louis

Chuck and I just returned from a whirlwind business trip/vacation to St. Louis and then Kansas City.
We went to St. Louis for the International Christian Retail Association event. During that time, I ended up having two book signings - autographing and giving away (yes, giving away) about 150 copies of "Real Spiritual Spinach - Faith for the Journey" to retailers and even some authors.
It's called marketing.
We're hoping and praying that these retailers will like the book and order copies for their stores. We also paid for an ad that was placed in a catalog and handed to retailers.
It's a risk - and not one that comes without a price.
But it's a risk we've been willing to take.
And it's kind of been fun.
We have books going to Haiti, Bermuda, Finland, Nigeria, South Korea and Brazil. I gave one of the cool cards that our publisher printed about the book to a distributor from London.
Lots of books went to stores in the South.
Now, it's a wait-and-trust-God process.
Earlier, I wrote that I was going out into the deep and fishing and praying to God for a big haul - like what Peter got when Christ told him to go out into the deep.
But now I think the process is more like planting seeds and praying for a bountiful harvest.
I'd appreciate prayers from any of you who'd like to pray.
I also must say that I've learned how much competition there is out there. Lots of authors from lots of companies have written and published books. Many companies had catalogs.
I did get a few cool, autographed copies of books from authors.
And I met a couple of authors who are already on my Facebook. If you notice Gwen Moore's name, you need to know that she wrote the book, "An Usher and Greeters Guide to the True Heart of a Servant Inspired by God."
Gwen had a bad experience with an usher when she visited a church years ago. Later, she became the head of the ushers group for her church. Now she leads a group of 20 ushers and greeters - ranging from teens to adults.
She knows how vital it is to welcome people properly into God's house and to make them feel welcome.
She's a fun person and she is already a friend.
And there's Mary Schrock, who wrote "The Greater Inheritance." Mary and her husband, John, left an old order Amish community when they came to know that we're saved by grace not by works or lifestyle.
Unable to remain in a religion that denied salvation by Christ alone, they left that lifestyle. It meant that they were rejected by family and cut off from their inheritance.
But if you read the back of Mary's book, you'll see that they now anticipate "The Greater Inheritance."
I read this 149-page book while on vacation. I could hardly put it down. Mary really gives readers an inside look at the Amish. She doesn't put them down; they're human beings with faults and frailties like all of us. She just tells about what it's like to live among this group of people. Mary also talks about the culture shock that she and her family had after leaving the Amish.
Some of that is kind of funny - like the trouble they had trying to match clothes!
It's a great book. I'd recommend it.
You may find it at: www.thegreaterinheritance.com.